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Finding My Voice

It has been pointed out that I have not been myself lately.

Side note:  this is never a compliment; no one ever says “You’re not yourself,” and means it in a good way.  Which, now that I think about it, is probably a good thing.

So I’ve spent some time reflecting on what could possibly be wrong.  There is nothing that stands out for me, a few smaller items, but what human being doesn’t have a few anxiety-producing, frustrating or negative-in-some-other-way issues in their lives?

So I look back to the past few days and examine my behavior, and the corresponding thoughts rolling around my head.

And here’s what I’ve come up with:  I am finding it more difficult than usual to express my opinions and my feelings.

“More difficult than usual” is a key phrase, as I have always found it difficult to express opinions that are important to me personally, or that I fear will be controversial.  I.  Am.  Non-confrontational.  This cannot be overstated, when it comes to me.  So if I mentally project that what I am going to say may upset you, or rile you up, or you simply won’t agree with it, then, more likely than not, I’m not going to say it.

Certainly not the healthiest mindset, a fact of which I am growing more and more painfully aware.

So, back to the past several days… I have had a few incidents, minor in nature, but incidents nonetheless where I had an opinion, but felt unable to express that opinion.  The variety of reasons that I felt unable to express myself would take entirely too wrong to explain, but the bottom line is:  I feel frustrated that my opinion is not being heard.

And it’s my 12-step program that’s tripping me up!

Two different well-known phrases have been line-dancing through my head of late, and I finally realize that I am having an issue with them:

1.  Restraint of pen and tongue

2.  Clean up your side of the street

In case they are not self-explanatory, the first talks about the idea of prudence in communication, rather than giving into impulse, flying off the handle, and saying things that I will later regret.  The second is the idea that the only actions that I can control are my own, and it is not my place to judge the actions of someone else.

Both very sensible ideas with which I find no fault.  On the other hand…

As someone who organically over thinks before I speak, the restraint of pen and tongue may very well be doing me a disservice.  One incident in particular stands out, where I, at long last, voiced an opinion, and that opinion got shot down quickly and strongly.  Oh no, confrontation!  The problem (as I saw it) was that the person in question misunderstood my position.  But all I’m thinking is, “this is what you get for speaking up,” and I basically let it go.

This has happened more than once this week, and I realize that I am the common denominator, so I need to figure this out.

Finding the balance between expressing yourself in a healthy way, setting boundaries with the people expressing their opinions to you, and not going off-the-rails crazy, is a challenge… and that is an understatement.

But, what the hell, if I could stay sober for 643 days, then surely I can figure out the solution to this problem!

Today’s Miracle:

Halloween, adorable kids in costumes, and loads of candy… need I say more?

Ghosts of Addictions Past

Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn’t you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn’t most of them turn out all right after all? -Dale Carnegie

I’ve had an uncomfortable thought process come up, with increasing frequency and intensity, in the past month or so.  I have written about it once or twice, peripherally, I have shared about it, in meetings and one-on-one, but it is hard for me to describe, and so I have been mostly talking to God about it, and asking Him to remove it.  Since He has not done so in the time frame I would like (as in, IMMEDIATELY!), I have to assume it is happening for a reason, and maybe the reason is I need to share it with others.  So at my Monday morning meeting, I decided to work my literature topic around this thought process and really try to explain it to the group.  I have no idea if I was effective in explaining myself, but I received some meaningful feedback, and so it was, as usual, an awesome meeting.

So here’s how the thought process works… I’ll use the most recent example, but I have hundreds more, it happens so frequently.  This morning I’m driving, and a song comes on the radio (Pink’s Glitter in the Air).  I immediately recall when she performed this song (2010 Grammy’s), and how much I enjoyed it.  I remember how that particular night I was watching the Grammy’s by myself in my bedroom (an unusual occurrence, my husband and I almost always watch evening television together in the family room).  I then try to recall if I was in an altered state, and perhaps that was why I was alone watching the show (I still can’t honestly remember if that was true or not, but for the purpose of this example let’s assume I was).  Here’s where it gets harder for me to explain:  once I pose this question to myself, an unpleasant sensation washes over me, a feeling to which I can’t quite put a name… guilt?  remorse?  It’s not a simple emotion, I believe it’s a mix of feelings, but it is intense, and hard to shake.

I have tried different things to snap out of it… I have tried sitting in the feeling, to give a more definitive name to the emotion.  I have tried to simply direct my thoughts elsewhere.  I have prayed about it, I have shared about it.  And still, the memories come back, on a regular enough basis that I fear God is telling me something, although I have no idea what that is.  This thought process does not just happen with music, it can happen at any time, and sometimes, for no reason at all.  Last week I was sitting with my son at the bus stop when this feeling washed over me, I can’t even recall what we were talking about.

The most hopeful feedback I received from this morning’s meeting was that time will heal this particular wound, so I need to exercise some patience.  If nothing else, I can at least feel grateful that these memories, or thoughts, or painful feelings, or whatever, are not causing me to want to give up my sobriety, which brings me to…

Today’s Miracle:

409 days sober, and even when painful thoughts arise, the obsession to alter myself chemically is gone!

It’s Like Being Asked To The Dance: Another Milestone!

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve got to make this quick, kiddies are clamoring.  Big, BIG news:  I have been asked to be a sponsor!  Obviously much more to follow…

Today’s Miracle:

I think today’s miracle is self-evident!

If You Have One Foot in Yesterday, and One Foot in Tomorrow, Guess What You’re Doing to Today?

“What day is it?”
‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet.
‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh.”
―    A.A. Milne

The answer is a little crude, so I’ll let you figure it out.

Staying in the day, rather than regretting the past or worrying about the future, is an acquired skill, at least it is for me.  It takes commitment, energy, and, most of all, practice, but the effort is really worth it.  Time spent in regret or worry usually amounts to little good.  Focusing on the present brings a peace of mind that this recovering individual has never known.

What’s happened, happened.  What might happen either will or won’t, but worrying about it won’t change the outcome, and it’s not happening right now.  There’s something within arm’s reach that can be enjoyed this very instant, so go do it!

Today’s Miracle:

My 10-year old son wants to try out for a solo piece in his chorus.  After trying and discarding several songs (mostly due to his not knowing the words), we settled on Amazing Grace, and rehearsed it before school.  Is there a better way to start the day than hearing a 10-year old boy singing Amazing Grace with all his heart and soul?

Choosing Your Outlook

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

This morning I woke up about an hour earlier than I am scheduled to get up, then could not fall back to sleep to save my life.  Then I had the same argument about outerwear with my son that I’ve had about 150 times.  We were rushing to get to school early because he is participating in his school’s Reading Olympics.  So I get to the drop-off line, and no one is there to let him in.  After many phone calls, I figure out I had the date wrong, and the early morning practices don’t begin for another 2 weeks.  At this point we either sit in the parking lot for 25 minutes, or go home and come back.  We sit and wait.  While we sit and wait, a song comes on the radio that I like (Joe Cocker‘s Feelin’ Alright), so I start to sing.  Keep in mind we are completely alone in a big parking lot. My son then yells at me for embarrassing him with my singing (remember, we are alone in the car, and in the parking lot), which then leads to another argument.

I’m writing about all of this because, despite all this aggravation, I am having a fantastic morning.  Because none of these incidents determine my day, only my attitude towards these incidents.

The end of the story, and the part I am choosing to focus on, is this:  after the “disagreement,” and several minutes of silence, I start flipping the radio, and come across the same song that started the fight.  My son asks, “what song is this anyway?”  I tell him the name of the song and the artist, and his 10-year old giggles over the last name have me smiling even now…

Today’s Miracle:

That I can choose to look at the good, instead of the annoying, in a situation.

The Blessings of Sobriety

A sense of blessedness comes from a change of heart, not from more blessings. –Mason  Cooley

Having the patience to make this, enjoying the family who helped me create it, and watching the joy on my son’s face as he saw this, are just a few of the blessings for which I am grateful today.

There Are No Coincidences

Why are you in so much hurry?
Is it really worth the worry?
Look around, then slow down.
What’s it like inside the bubble?
Does your head ever give you trouble?
It’s no sin, trade it in.

Little River Band, Help is on its Way

The tagline below my blog title reads there are no coincidences.  For those who know me, there is a bit of irony here… for years, I have hounded my friends about the many amazing coincidences that are prevalent in our lives.  The expression that our group uses when something interesting happens is “log it!”  The idea behind logging the coincidences is that we will someday collaboratively write a book detailing all the amazingly coincidental things that have happened to us, and it was a game to see who could come up with the cover story (to date my friend Jim would win this award, but it would take entirely too long to detail his story).

Back when we started this game, the coincidences had nothing to do with spirituality or inspiration.  Today I play the same game, mostly with myself, but instead I look at them as God trying to direct me in my life.  If you ever decide you want to participate in this sport, be prepared to be amazed.  The signs are absolutely everywhere, and they are nothing short of amazing.  Every single day, sometimes multiple times in a day, I receive signs from God that help me to figure out if I am heading in the right direction, doing the next right thing, thinking the right way.  It is simply a matter of getting quiet, and focusing in the present moment.  It could be a phone call from a friend, something shared in an AA meeting, a post in a blog, or even a song on the radio.

Which is why I chose a song lyric as my quote.  This song, popular about 35 years ago, came on the radio as I was driving to a court appearance that was causing me a great deal of anxiety.  I took it as a sign to calm down, and, as I have written, things turned out miraculously.  Prior to this incident, I had not heard that song in decades.  Today, as I’m driving home and trying to figure out what to write in today’s post, guess what song came on the radio?  This is clearly a sign, either that I should write about all the amazing coincidences (that aren’t really coincidences) in my life…

Or that I should rally my readers to start a movement to reunite the Little River Band.  I’ll let you decide…

Fear of the Unknown

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. -H.P. Lovecraft

I am reading a book, Sober Identity, written by an extremely talented fellow blogger, Lisa Neumann.  I believe one of reasons for finding my way to the blogging world was to connect with Lisa and this book, because it inspires me with each page I read.  To say I recommend this book would be an understatement.  The section I am reading today talks about consciously choosing the words you say, and eliminating what you don’t mean to say.  So, with deliberation, I will say that I am experiencing a fair amount of anxiety today.

I have written in the past that I am awaiting some consequences from my active addiction.  Today I received a hurried voicemail that at last I may have to begin the “consequence” process tomorrow.  So I am anxious for several reasons.  First, that is all the information I have, and that is not nearly enough information for my controlling mind to accept.  Second, I have a trip planned, out of town, next week, and I am terrified that this process will force me to cancel my trip.  And, last but certainly not least, I have very limited knowledge of what the process will mean to my life, how disruptive it will be, how long it will last… really, I don’t know anything.

So now it’s time to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk, practice what I preach, and pick up the tools that I have been accumulating for the past 226 days.  What else can I do?  I have made some phone calls and voiced my feelings (and I feel reasonably confident I will be on the phone some more after I hit “publish”), I have prayed, I am writing, and I will pray some more.  Most important, I will keep reminding myself that the Higher Power I wrote about yesterday is working, right now, to make everything turn out okay.

To be continued…

Blogging 101

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. -Lao Tzo

Alright, this title may be a little misleading (okay, a lot misleading), but when I clicked “publish” on my last post I realized I had completed 100 entries, which got me to thinking about the evolution of my blog.

Like many aspects of recovery, this project has turned out to be such an unforeseen miracle!  I was greatly encouraged to chronicle my journey through early sobriety, and informed that a blog was the best way to go about it.  Hard as it is to believe, I had not read a single blog until this idea was suggested to me!  So I started, more or less thinking it would be like an online diary.

What has happened since then, to me, is nothing short of amazing.  Not only do I have many family and friends reading my entries, but, unbelievably, I have people I have never met tuning in to read my thoughts.  It may seem silly, but I really was naive enough to be very surprised by this.  I will never forget my first “like”… I had to ask my husband about it, because I really did not understand or realize that other people would be interested.

The most rewarding part of this process, for me, has been to hear the words “you really made me think.”  Likewise, getting to know all the other bloggers out there has been another unexpected privilege.  It is like having a fellowship in cyber space… we are truly not alone in our problems, nor are we alone in the solution.  I have learned so many valuable lessons from my fellow writers that I truly put to use in my day-to-day life.

Since I have been on vacation this week, I have not been able to maintain my 4 posts a week for which I typically strive.  Yet another surprise, I find that I miss writing.  Two different days this week I tried and failed to carve out time for writing, and I found myself going to bed thinking about it and being disappointed I couldn’t reach out.

I really hope that this blog evolves along with my recovery.  Like the rest of my life, I believe this best is yet to come!

Reflections on the 6th Step

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Because it is June, the 6th month of the year, many of the meetings I have attended recently focus on the 6th step, which is:

were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

I am nowhere near Step 6 in my own recovery, and anything I hear about it overwhelms me, because the idea of trying to even comprehend all of my defects of character seems like an insurmountable task, much less working towards ridding myself of them!

What has been interesting, in studying this step, is thinking about the “less glaring” defects that we all have.  When contemplating defects, I imagine most people think of the big ones.  For example, addicts belonging to a 12-step program are obviously seeking help in removing the obsession to drink or use drugs.  This is a glaring defect, one which causes immense discomfort to the individual, and consequently there is a big motivation to eradicate it.

But what of the smaller defects, ones that bring no real discomfort to our lives, and in fact can bring pleasure?  Gossiping is a good example… it is clearly a defect of character, but for those of us who engage in this habit, can we really say we are entirely ready to rid ourselves of it?  There are many such examples of lesser defects that we all possess, and should want to eliminate, but that does not mean we actually want to rid ourselves of them!

One of my primary “smaller” character defects, as I understand them at the present time, is impatience.  It runs rampant through my life, but does no major damage (of which I am aware, anyway).  But it is so ingrained in my life, and has been with me so long, I simply can’t imagine myself as a patient person. 

So how do I work on it?  Again, I am not on this step yet, so I’m sure my answer will change in time, but for now I have received this piece of advice that makes perfect sense to me, and I am going to try it out and see how it works:  ask God to remove your character defect, and then act as if He has already done it.  Truthfully, I have laughed each time I have pictured myself trying to act like a patient person, but, as is said all the time in AA, it’s about progress, not perfection!

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